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Baker's Dozen

Death Before Silence: Ed Harcourt's Favourite Albums
Wyndham Wallace , March 4th, 2013 06:44

Singer, songwriter, pianist and all-round bon viveur Ed Harcourt talks to Wyndham Wallace about his favourite records


Smog - Dongs Of Sevotion
It’s such a smart alec title, isn’t it? It’s everything that you want in a title. It’s childish, and so, so slightly clever-clever. And the front cover is obviously him sitting in a massive church by an organ.

The first record I heard by Bill Callahan was Knock Knock, which has ‘Cold Blooded Old Times’ and ‘Teenage Spaceship’, and I love that record. And then I was making Here Be Monsters, and I went to Buffalo in upstate New York to work with Dave Fridmann on two tracks on Here Be Monsters. When I got there it was deep, deep snow in January and there was no one there, and I could hear wild dogs howling, and I was a bit paranoid, and I was tinkering around the Flaming Lips studio, playing with their timpani, just like a pig in shit. Mark Linkous had just made It’s A Wonderful Life and left me a note saying, “I hope we’ll be going on tour soon, and by the way there’s a Playboy magazine under the bed”. “Thanks! I just got Mark Linkous’ second hand pornographic magazine!”

Anyway, for some reason the record that I was obsessed with was Dongs Of Sevotion, and especially the last track, ‘Permanent Smile’: that song for me, the sound of it, I think it just seeped into my system, and really inspired me. I’ve forever been trying to get that drum sound. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it, but I believe it was John McEntire from Tortoise who was producing it.

I just think you’ll never going to be let down by a Bill Callahan record, are you? His lyrics are so incredible, and so fucked and interesting. There are glimmers of humour, but there are also glimmers of tenderness. I’m sure he’ll catch himself: “Oh, I’m being a bit tender here, I’ll have to throw in a line here about ants eating away a human skull in the sand.” Because in ‘Permanent Smile’ he talks about something like “ants eating away my flesh and skin and then you see my skull and I’m left with a permanent smile”. It’s like, “Jesus! Where the fuck does that come from?”

His songwriting intimidates me so much, lyrically. It’s like Leonard Cohen. It’s a similar thing. Where does that come from?! It’s definitely something to aspire to. That’s a record I keep coming back to again. And ‘Dress Sexy At My Funeral’ is just one of the best songs ever! I could imagine him writing a book or film. Maybe he could help Todd Solondz.